Week Eight’s workshops at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center will help students explore their poetic obsessions and their senses of humor.
Lori Jakiela will serve as the prose writer-in-residence, and Mihaela Moscaliuc and Michael Waters will serve as the poets-in-residence for the week.
Jakiela’s workshop is called “A Writer Walks into a Bar: Humor Writing,” and Moscaliuc’s and Waters’ workshop is called “The Poetic Sequence.” The writers will also give readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Moscaliuc and Waters will co-lead their workshop, which will focus on utilizing the poetic sequence as a way to write about their thematic obsessions and fascinations.
“Almost no matter what we write about — no matter how seemingly distant or impersonal the subject matter — we write ourselves into our poems, and the work that goes into creating a sequence is revelatory in this regard,” Moscaliuc said.
Moscaliuc always feels like she learns something while teaching, mostly because each student brings something singular with them, she said.
“Most participants bring to the workshop life experiences, obsessions, wounds, joys and, perhaps most importantly, very particular ways of approaching all these,” Moscaliuc said. “I’m there to help them find strategies to tap into what’s already waiting to become a poem and to hone their craft.”
Moscaliuc and Waters have taught at the Writers’ Center before, and Moscaliuc said they’re both excited to return to Chautauqua Institution’s “idyllic landscape.” The pair take pleasure in getting to collaborate when the opportunity presents itself, she said. Moscaliuc believes having two leaders for the workshop will help the students when it comes to manipulating their voice, diction and perspective in their poetry.
“Sometimes our perspectives conflate, sometimes they intersect, and sometimes they contradict or complement each other,” Moscaliuc said. “I believe that’s all beneficial, this varied exposure to how a poetic sequence works.”
Jakiela’s workshop will help students find ways to incorporate humor into their writing, no matter what their genre is. She said the goal of her workshop isn’t to turn every student into a humorist, but to help them see how humor can inform their work in a meaningful way.
“The idea of trying hard to be funny is really painful,” Jakiela said. “And you don’t want to do that. You want to write with your authentic voice and your authentic vision. I think we can all acknowledge, as human beings, that humor is a hugely important part of who we are as people. If we don’t have a sense of humor, we have very few ways to survive in the world, I think.”
Jakiela plans to look at samples from other writers with her students and to instruct them with generative exercises that help them explore the relationship between humor and pathos. Jakiela said the interplay between these elements is extremely important.
“Humor infuses pathos, and pathos infuses humor. That happens at the same time,” Jakiela said. “And I think that’s literature, for me, anyway — the best writers understand that really well. They don’t have to be stand-up comedians to understand that.”
This will be Jakiela’s first time being a writer-in-residence, but not her first time on the grounds this year — she co-directed the pre-season Chautauqua Writers’ Festival with Sherrie Flick and Philip Terman. She said being around other writers in an environment like the one at Chautauqua is “just contagious.”
“It really reminds you that this is why you love it so much,” Jakiela said.
Jakiela and Moscaliuc will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall during the week. Moscaliuc’s Brown Bag, called “Agha Shahid Ali, Transnational Poet,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Jakiela’s Brown Bag, called “All that Glimmers: On Finding Those Luminous Details,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.